Monday, January 9, 2012

Staying warm, again.

I was stupid. Terribly, terribly stupid this morning. I didn't check the weather before I left for work, basing my assumption of the temperature on Friday's temp, and therefore wasn't prepared. (I keep saying that I need to relearn lessons all the time.) I didn't have a scarf I could wrap around my face comfortably, and I wasn't wearing thick enough longjohns.
So, in honor of the cold (currently, -27, although it was -35 earlier) I figured I'd write down a few more rules of staying warm in the cold, to remind myself as much as anything.

1. Longer/taller is almost always better. For instance, I chose my coat (which is rated to -15) over a warmer coat mostly because it's longer. (I also like the look better, but that's beside the point.) I can add layers underneath to make it warmer, but no amount of tugging is going to make it longer. This way, my thighs are somewhat insulated from the cold and, on mornings such as this when I haven't dressed appropriately, that can mean the difference between being too cold and getting a touch of frostbite.
This rule also applies especially to socks. Longer socks mean more layers on your legs. (If you can find thick, long, wool socks like these, that's the pinnacle of sockness as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I have a similar pair.) Longer socks also means that if snow gets in your boots, or you go for your midday walk in your Dansko clogs and accidentally step into deep snow, your feet will still be warm. Not that I know from experience, or anything.

2. Never underestimate the weather. This sounds obvious, but we still do it all the time up here. We underestimate how much it will snow, how cold it will be, or how wildly the weather will swing. Being prepared for the conditions, whatever they are, is the best step to keeping yourself out of trouble.
Our truck doesn't heat very well. In fact, during the winter it doesn't *heat* at all, it just blows less cold air. (Shane the biologist said that it amounts to the same thing, English major I said that there's a world of difference in those terms.) Instead of being hypothermia-inducing the temperature in the car will be cold enough to make you go numb. So I was very thankful that I planned for colder-than-it-actually-was temperatures for the drive home from Soldotna. We were still cold, but not dangerously so.

4. Always warm up slowly when you've been cold. Even if you're not hypothermic, you can do a lot of damage to your tissues if you warm them up too quickly.

5. Be fit. This sounds odd, since fat is an insulator so you'd think it's good. A little bit is, but as long as you're within the "normal" range of weight (yes, you can quibble with BMI, and I do, but for most people it is a decent indicator) then you'll have enough fat. Muscle, on the other hand, produces heat. The larger your muscles, the more heat they put off. And if you don't have a lot of fat covering them then the heat will reach the surface tissues (i.e. your skin) and keep it warm. This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but like approximately 60% of people (that number comes out of my nutrition textbook) I'm what's called "pear-shaped". My thighs tend to be one part of me that collects fat. The only reason I'm saying this is because that's a part of me that goes numb. I have decent thigh muscles, but the warmth doesn't reach the surface as quickly as it should because of all the fat. This is one rule that I'm working on. It also helps motivate me to exercise during the winter when it would be so easy to sit on the couch eating and watching movies or reading. All I have to do is think of my cold walk and I'm off the couch.

6. When you're truly cold, electric blankets and body heat are the way to go. The friends who came to the cabin with us for New Year's had two little kids whose feet kept getting cold. Their mom would take off their socks and put their little feet under her shirt, on her belly, to warm them up. (Brr!) Since most people aren't willing to let you put your freezing body parts on them (I'm not sure what the neighbors think when Shane tries to put his cold hands on my stomach and I scream) electric blankets are another option. We really only plug ours in on days when it seems either of us just can't get warm and then turn it off when we've warmed up. However, I only resort to the electric blanket after I've given other methods of warming up (such as moving around the apartment and drinking something hot) a go first. (See warming up slowly above.)

7. I don't have any, but my boss wears her snowpants for the drive to work every morning in the winter. (She's from Australia.) My friend L has a snowskirt (different style--I know she got hers in town, maybe at Big Ray's?) that she swears by. (I really want one! Maybe I'll tell Shane for my birthday?) They're easy enough to side-zip over pants and just add an extra layer of warmth. I've even seen L go out to dinner wearing it. Over thick leggings, cute boots, and with a cute sweater she certainly looked dressed up for Fairbanks in the winter.

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